I’ve traveled to some pretty amazing places around the world, but Lake Tahoe is by far one of my favorite in the United States. This massive California lake is beautiful in both the snowy winter and warm summer, but many people flock here during the warmer months for all the summer activities at Lake Tahoe.
While I usually don’t travel during the summer in Seattle because of the gorgeous weather we have there, I’ll always make an exception to make a trip to Lake Tahoe in summer. There are numerous things to do in Tahoe in the summer, and the entire area is an outdoor lover’s dream.
This guide will show you how to get to Lake Tahoe, where to stay in Lake Tahoe, and the best activities in Lake Tahoe in summer.
How to Prepare for Tahoe Summer Activities
Here are a few tips to help you plan your trip.
How to Get to Lake Tahoe
If you live on the West Coast, Tahoe is easy to get to. You’ll fly into the Reno Airport, which has flights from all around the country. From Seattle to Lake Tahoe, it’s less than 2 hours to fly into Reno (pretty quick!). JetBlue also has direct flights around the country that you can take to Reno including Long Beach and New York (JFK).
The Reno-Tahoe Airport is the closest major airport, and from there it’s about an hour and a half to get from Reno to Tahoe. I’ve rented a car when I’ve been there in the past, but that’s not your only option. You can also book a ride with South Tahoe Airporter instead of worrying about the cost of renting a car.
They’ll drop you off at the nearest hotel, and you can relax on the ride there. I was surprised at how walkable South Lake Tahoe was. I was able to walk most places for my summer activities at Lake Tahoe, and there’s a ferry available to get to other parts of the lake.
Summer in Lake Tahoe is a beautiful time to drive here from California destinations such as San Francisco. If you’re doing a road trip on the west coast, you’ll want to add Tahoe to your itinerary.
Where to Stay for a Lake Tahoe Summer Vacation
You have plenty of options to choose from during your stay in summer in Lake Tahoe.
Hotel Azure – This of the best family retreats to stay in Lake Tahoe in summer. It’s great as a base to explore the surrounding region and take part in plenty of Lake Tahoe summer activities. (rates start at $167 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Stardust Lodge – This is an amazing getaway spot that’s just perfect when you’re looking for a place to stay in the summer in Lake Tahoe. From swimming pools to wonderfully furnished rooms, one of the greatest parts is that the beach is just a mere five-minute walk from the lodge. (rates start at $159 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Basecamp Tahoe South – I love camping and being outdoors, and the Basecamp Hotel doesn’t make you give that up when you stay with them. Their rooms are outdoor-themed and have unique artwork all over the walls. (rates start at $119 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
There are many other Lake Tahoe hotels to choose from as well.
If you prefer to stay in a vacation rental in Lake Tahoe, these are some great options.
- Pet-Friendly Cabin – This cozy cabin is situated on the south side of Lake Tahoe and has a hot tub. (rates start at $199 per night; book your cabin here)
- Classic A-Frame Home – You’ll enjoy a hot tub and gas fire pit in a quiet neighborhood on a wooded lot. (rates start at $85 per night; book your home here)
The Best Summer Activities at Lake Tahoe
Tahoe is amazing when it comes to outdoor activities. You can really do anything you can think of, from water skiing to boating to hiking. Here are some of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer.
Take a Hike on the Trails
There are so many Lake Tahoe hikes to do that you’ll love how many different choices you have. I recommend going first thing in the morning while it’s still cool and before everyone else on their Lake Tahoe summer vacation joins the trail.
Many of these hikes are both dog and kid-friendly, so it makes it one of the best activities at Lake Tahoe in summer. Just check the mileage and elevation gain before deciding if your family is physically capable of going on it.
There are many hikes in South Lake Tahoe to do as well as all around the lake. You can find everything from an easy two-mile hike to hikes that are challenging and take a significant portion of the day to do.
Ride the Heavenly Gondola
Being a part of nature is always enjoyable, but something you need to observe something from far up. This gondola ride does just that – it’s a 2.4-mile ride upwards that offers some stunning views of the beauty found in the region. Go here early in the day to enjoy one of the most scenic summer activities at Lake Tahoe.
There’s even an observation deck designed explicitly for photographs so that you won’t forget a single detail of your trip. Once you’re at the top, you can continue onto the many hiking trails in the region.
Water Ski on the Lake
There are plenty of Lake Tahoe adventures to take advantage of. Water skiing is one of those adventures, as it’s one of many ideal summer activities at Lake Tahoe. Water skiing is an activity that’s easy to learn and yet difficult to master.
The wide-open waters allow for as intense or as relaxed water skiing sessions as you choose. There are numerous schools where you can start learning to water ski, such as Borges or Birkholm’s water ski schools.
Camp in the Wilderness
Camping is one of the best Tahoe summer activities. The fresh mountain air makes for a perfect camping trip. There are many beautiful areas to camp in, such as Eagle Point Campground, Fallen Leaf Lake Campground, and many others that are easily accessible camping sites. If you’re new to camping, you’ll want to read my article on camping 101 for beginners.
There’s always a sense of calm and tranquility when camping in the summer in Lake Tahoe. You’ll want to add this activity to your Lake Tahoe summer vacation plans.
Bike on the Trails
Lake Tahoe in summer means gorgeous weather, clear skies, and wonderful biking trails. Going there to specifically bike is not only fun but very rewarding, as there are a lot of trails designed specifically for biking.
This is also one of the best family-friendly summer activities at Lake Tahoe. If you don’t own a bike, there are several bike rental shops near the trails, like the ones found near Squaw Valley so you can enjoy this summer activity at Lake Tahoe.
Take a Boat Ride
If you want to experience the refreshing waters of Lake Tahoe without going into the lake, then going on a boat ride might be the ideal activity for you. Boating is one of those unforgettable summer activities in Lake Tahoe, as there’s nothing like being on clear, blue-green water. Many of the vessels even let you rent them out for events and special occasions.
See the Lake From Above With Parasailing
Parasailing is one of those thrilling Lake Tahoe summer activities that feels amazing and is absolutely unforgettable. This is one of the most adventurous things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer, so make sure to book a spot on one of the parasailing rides. They’re also one of the safest summer activities in Lake Tahoe to do, so it’d be a shame to skip out on them.
Admire the Wildflowers
There are many things to do in Tahoe, but natural beauty is a large part of the appeal. While visiting during winter in Lake Tahoe is scenic in itself, summer brings a different kind of beauty. No photograph or video can really capture how beautiful the area is.
One of the best ways to see this for yourself is to go looking for wildflowers. There are countless species of wildflowers, all of them lazily swaying in the fresh mountain breeze. For those who want to relax and forget about the worries of everyday life, this is one of the best low-key Lake Tahoe summer activities.
Stroll Around the Town
While there are practically an infinite amount of trails to go on and many summer activities at Lake Tahoe to do, you don’t have to be on the go the whole time. It’s fun just to take in the sights and see for yourself what exactly Lake Tahoe is all about.
You might stumble onto a tiny refreshing spring, or discover a waterfall you had no idea existed. At the very least, you’ll enjoy a tranquil and relaxing trip on the grounds surrounding the lake. Exploring is an activity that feeds the soul and reminds us why nature itself can be so beautiful.
Kayak on the Water
Nothing is better than feeling the breeze in your face and being surrounded by the beautiful waters of Lake Tahoe while kayaking. This makes for one of those unforgettable Lake Tahoe summer activities.
Kayaking is one of the most popular activities, as it’s readily available in the summer in Lake Tahoe. There are plenty of tours and schools that guide you to help you have the best kayaking adventure possible.
Have a Sunset Dinner on the Water
Enjoying the afternoon air in a romantic and relaxing ambiance is one of the best parts of Boathouse on the Pier. While it’s not as affordable as some other places, the view more than makes up for it.
You can watch the people paddle by in kayaks, or just enjoy the sunset. These are experiences you won’t forget anytime soon, especially if you are picky when it comes to price on where to eat in Lake Tahoe.
Relax at the Beach
There are many Lake Tahoe beaches to visit, so here are a few to check out.
- Sand Harbor Beach – Often hailed as the most beautiful beach on Lake Tahoe, this beach is found on the Nevada side of the lake. It’s an easy beach to reach, and there are plenty of amenities, such as a snack bar, restrooms, seating areas, and picnic spots. The beach has an entrance fee of $10 per vehicle or $2 per bike.
- Lester Beach – This Lake Tahoe beach is found in D.L. Bliss Park and is a relaxing beach filled with sand. The beach has a swimming area, restrooms, and is surrounded by the state park itself. The fee to access the park is $10 per vehicle.
- Round Hills Pine Beach – If you want to see a different part of the lake, take the ferry from Lakeside Marina over to Round Hills Pine Beach. This is a very active beach, with everything from kayak rentals to paddle boarding rentals.
- Lakeside Marina – After all that hiking, you’ll want to relax. Walk over to Lakeside Marina to spend a day on the beach. They have a restaurant that serves meals and beverages for when you get hungry or thirsty.
Enjoy Margaritas on the Patio
When it’s warm in Tahoe, everyone’s out celebrating. Many restaurants have patios with live music to enjoy your meals on. For delicious margaritas and tacos, head to Azul Latin Kitchen. It’s the perfect way to end a day of busy Lake Tahoe summer activities – good food and sunshine.
Have a Barbecue on the Lake
For a barbeque by the lake, stop at Lakeside Beach House Restaurant. You’ll get some amazing views of the lake, and you’ll be treated by the breathtaking views of the sunset at night. The Santa Maria-style barbeque is one of their specialties and combined with one of their beers on tap.
Watch a Show at the Theater
For dinner and entertainment, check out The Loft. They have a comfy lounge to get drinks and appetizers in, and you can see a magic show in an intimate 100+ seat theater afterward.
There are many amazing Lake Tahoe summer activities to take part in, so you’ll have plenty to choose from. Whether you want to relax on the beach or head out on a hike, you’ll have a blast with these summer activities at Lake Tahoe.